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Suicide is always preventable. If you are having thoughts of suicide or feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline immediately at 988. Counselors are also available to chat at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. Remember: You deserve to be supported, and it is never too late to seek help. Speak with someone today.
In this episode of Inside EMS, our cohosts, Chris Cebollero and Kelly Grayson, are joined by Willie Doan, a paramedic and academy coordinator from Newcastle, Delaware, to discuss the rampant issues of stress, depression, burnout, substance abuse and suicide among first responders.
A recovering alcoholic, Doan shares his story of addiction, beginning with his first drink at 14, acknowledging that he often drank more than his peers, but never recognized it as a problem. As he joined EMS and began witnessing distressing scenes as part of his job, he continued to drink, sometimes using his work as an excuse, whether it was to celebrate a successful resuscitation or to numb the pain of a bad call.
Despite his dedication to his duty, Doan admits that his addiction worsened. He didn’t acknowledge his alcohol problem until he was in rehab and was educated about how substance abuse affects the brain. His turning point came about 604 days ago, when he was arrested on suspicion of DUI, his second in 6 years. Waking up with no recollection of the event, he asked his mother, “What’s wrong with me?” This moment marked the beginning of his journey to recovery.
Throughout the discussion, Willie underscores the importance of recognizing and addressing addiction in high-stress professions like first responders. His story serves as a reminder that recovery is possible, and that seeking help is the first step towards overcoming addiction.
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- The Code Green Campaign: Mental health resources for first responders